Elon Musk unveils the long range Tesla Semi electric truck

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Elon Musk is unveiling his company’s electric truck, the Tesla Semi, promising long range and big savings. Here’s what we know…

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Source: Tesla
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Source: Tesla
Source: Tesla

US electric vehicle and battery giant Tesla has unveiled its electric truck concept, the Tesla Semi, at the company’s design studio in California on Thursday night (US time).

The reveal – which was live-streamed on the company’s website – has been well hyped, particularly by Tesla founder CEO Elon Musk, who had Tweeted on Monday that it would “blow your mind clear out of your skull.”

We’re not sure that that happened, but here are the key details: It will deliver savings of $US200,000 over diesel trucks over a million miles (1.6 million kms) and will have a range of 500 miles (800kms), far beyond its competitors. It will use less than two kilowatt-hours of energy per mile.

Source: Tesla
Source: Tesla

And it can perform. It can go from 0 to 100kmh in five seconds without cargo, or reach 100kmh in 20 seconds at the maximum weight allowed on US.

It can climb 5 per cent grades at a steady 110kmh, and requires no shifting or clutching for smooth acceleration and deceleration, and its regenerative braking recovers 98 per cent of kinetic energy to the battery, giving it a basically infinite brake life.

“I can drive this thing and I have no idea how to drive a semi,” Musk said.

Of course, Tesla is not the only company working to roll out electric trucks.

Cummins, a leading US maker of diesel and natural gas engines for commercial trucks, unveiled a Class 7 truck cab in late August, featuring an advanced 140kWh battery pack that it will sell to bus operators and commercial truck fleets starting in 2019.

And Canada’s largest retailer, Loblaw, unveiled a 53 foot, fully electric class 8 BYD electric truck at the start of the month – the first in a transition of its company-owned fleet to EVs.

But Tesla, is Tesla.

And as Giles Parkinson wrote here, the Tesla Semi stands to do to the massive global road freight industry what the Model S, 3 and X will do – already are doing – to petrol cars; and what the Spacex program did to the space industry; and what the Tesla battery storage devices and the solar tile might do to the utilities and roofing industries respectively.

In the case of the Tesla Semi, however, this disruption could mainly be due to the cost: Morgan Stanley has said the Tesla Semi could be 70 per cent cheaper to operate than a diesel-powered truck and Musk reinforced this point, that it would be “economic suicide” to continue driving diesel trucks.

Here’s what we know about the Tesla Semi:

More aerodynamic than a Bugatti Chiron

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* It will be a fully electric “Class 8 truck,” the largest heavy duty freight trucks.

*It will have a 200kWh battery pack. “The point of doing this is to give a hardcore smackdown to internal combustion cars,” Musk said.

* Musk has confirmed it will have a range of up to 800km (500 miles) on a single charge, and will be able to add 400 miles (643km) of range in 30 minutes of charging. “By the time you are done with your break, the truck is ready to go. You will not be waiting for your truck to charge,” he said.

*The trucks will be charged via specialised “megachargers” which will generate the energy required to charge the battery via solar panels. “Your truck is running on sunlight,” said Musk.

*Tesla is guaranteeing the drive train for 1 million miles, and the brake pads will have “quasi-infinite” lifespan with regenerative braking that also features in Tesla’s cars.

*The Semi will have an average cost of $1.26/mile versus $1.51/mile for diesel truck.

*Customers can pay a $US5,000 reservation fee now for a Semi, with production set to begin in 2019.

*The Semi shares a number of parts with Tesla’s mass-market passenger vehicle the Model 3, including the same motor – although there are four of them in the Semi – and the same door handles.

*It can travel from zero to 100km per hour in five seconds, or 20 seconds with a load of 36 tonnes (80,000 pounds). Top speed is over 250 miles (400km/h).

*The Semi’s cabin has a centred drivers seat, four seats in total.

*The Tesla semi also has the company’s autopilot advanced driver assistance system found in the electric passenger vehicles.

*The cab has two touchscreen displays positioned on either side of the driver, and built-in connectivity that integrates directly with a fleet’s management system, to support scheduling and remote monitoring.

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